Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Common-law Parents

Some parents aren't married. They chose to live together without getting married. In legal terms, they are called “common-law” couples.

When common-law parents stop living together, they don't have to get a divorce because there is no marriage to end. But they do need to decide what will happen to their kids and how they will divide their property.

The laws on custody and visiting rights are the same for married couples as they are for common-law couples. Parents need to decide on living arrangements for the kids and on visiting rights, so that both parents have a chance to spend time with the kids. If common-law couples can’t agree, they have to go to court to ask a judge to decide.

Q & R

Q:
Who decides who I will live with? Do I get a say?
A:

Ideally, your parents will make the decisions together about who you’ll live with and how that will work.

If they can't decide themselves, they might go to a mediator for help in reaching an agreement. Or they might have to go to court and have a judge make the decisions for them.

Whether your parents make the decisions about custody and visiting rights themselves, or with the help of a mediator or a judge, your opinion should be taken into account.

Q:
What is the difference between legal separation and divorce?
A:

When two people who are married decide to split up, they need to get a divorce to legally end their marriage.

They can also decide to get a legal separation and divide up their property. They have to go to court for this, but this does not end the marriage. Divorce is the only way to end a marriage. To learn more about “legal separation” visit Éducaloi’s website.

Q:
My parents never married. Do they have to go through the same process that married parents do when they split up?
A:

Common-law parents — parents who chose to live together without getting married — don't get a divorce because there is no marriage to end. But they do need to decide what will happen to their children and how they’ll divide their property.